Monday, March 13, 2006

Spinnin' Wrenches, and Contortionism

2001 Mazda Millenia. Overdue for a fuel filter change.

I had to go buy a book to find the thing. (And that's the topic of another post.)

Would it be such a terrible imposition to ask auto designers to put the fuel filter, a regularly-serviced item, some place where you don't need to be the little Chinese Acrobat from Ocean's Eleven to get to the damn thing?

2001 Mazda Millenia is a mid-size sedan, with a mid-size sedan sized trunk. And you have to go through the VERY FRONT of the trunk floor to get to the fuel filter.

Not great when you're six feet tall, and weigh somewhere a little north of 200 pounds. Lisa enjoyed the spectacle greatly, however.

Anyway, that maintenance item is checked for the next little while. And Mazda designers are getting dangerously close to going on the same list as Ford designers (yeah, I know they're probably the same people).


Blogger Rivrdog said...

Ford story.

I have a 1999 Mazda B-2500 pickup. Nice little truck, good blend of economy and power with the sturdy Ford 135-hp fourbanger. Truck is the same as a Ranger. Tranny's a little optimistic with the five-speed floorjammer having both 4th and 5th as overdrive, but I've learned to manage it, and there's actually fair power at lower R's, so I lug the engine down to 1800 and it doesn't mind, in fact gives me a usual 25mph on summer gas (no ethanol).

The truck has the high-end stretch-cab, with luxo everything, and that's nice in a small truck.

Service is another matter. Avout 60,000 miles, I started losing instrument panel lighting, a bulb at a time. Consulting the book showed the bulbs to be in quarter-turn sockets molded into the panel PC board. The first one to go was right at the 12:00 position on the speedo, right at 55-60 mph, where you need the light to run the suburban and rural highways safely at night.

The next one was on the speedo at 9:00, now blanking out 35-60mph. Then tach lights started to go, but fortunately in the 4-5000 range where I rarely take the engine anyway.

I prepare to change ALL the bulbs out, count them carefully, and buy a whole box of them at NAPA. I look in the book.

Book says to dis-assemble the entire frapping front interior of the truck! Not a job for me, I usually break those plastic parts, so I call Mr. Mazda. Flat rate book gives 5 hours for that job! Thats $350 labor to change a few lightbulbs!

They have to be shitting me!

I contort myself as much as the old bod allows, but only get to within about 4 inches of the bulbs, and I have very small hands and wrists.

I surmise that if a pre-teen girl could be taught to find the bulb bases by feel, and snake that much-skinnier, but almost as long arm in there, I might get the job done for a sawbuck.

If that doesn't work, I'm going to Dremel-cut a hole in the top of the dashboard, and the lights will be just inches below that, and I should be able to fab up a welding-rod tool covered with sticky surgical tubing to grab the bulb bases and turn them. Might look into fabbing up a slotted socket that will fit on a Craftsman lemon-squeezer ratchet.

What a pain.

11:26 PM  
Blogger og said...

asshatDisassembling the dash isn't nearly as bad as you might think, as long as you remember to remove ALL the screws. You have to start with the RADIO, believe it or not, and by the time you have all the screws out you have a pile about 4" tall. You also have to lower the steering column, and disconnect the little nylon prndl cable.

if you plan to keep the vehicle for any length of time, do yourself a favor and buy the little LEED lights instead of bulbs. They last forever, so this becomes a one-time job.

5:38 AM  
Blogger og said...

That was menat to say "asshats". As directed at Ford/Mazda.

5:38 AM  
Blogger Aaron Neal said...

I'm about to have to tear into the dash of Dad's '93 Caprice 9C1.

Currently, anytime the dash lights are on, the seatbelt chime is going off. And the fuel gauge is telling me it's got about 1.8 tanks full of gas.

I HATE doing dash / instrument cluster work. Although Rivrdog's idea makes me think maybe I could rent Capn'Mo's teenage daughter for an afternoon...

Nah. 9C1, for the uninitiated, is the code for all the police options. It's basically an Impala SS, but not pretty. Given that this was, in fact, a highway patrol car, there's no TELLING what I'm gonna find behind that dash. Probably better if I do it myself, gorilla hands and all.

6:10 PM  

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